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Multiple Ways to Remove Snow From Solar Panels in 2023

cleaning snow off solar panels

Solar panels are a great source of renewable energy, but they can be affected by snow buildup in the winter months. Snow accumulation can reduce the efficiency of solar panels as they need direct sunlight to produce energy. To avoid losing out on energy production, it’s essential to know how to remove snow from solar panels properly.

If you are wondering how to keep snow off solar panels, fortunately, there are various ways including some innovative methods developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Understanding these advancements in solar energy, how solar panels work and their load-bearing capacity is essential before attempting to remove snow, and it’s best to seek advice from professionals to avoid any damage to your solar system.

What is a Solar Panel?

Solar panels are devices that convert sunlight into electricity. They work by allowing photons, or particles of light, to knock electrons free from atoms, generating a flow of electricity. Solar panels are often used as part of a solar system, which can include other components such as best solar batteries and inverters. Solar panels have become increasingly popular in the US in recent years due to a desire for energy independence, reduced energy bills, and a growing concern for the environment. In fact, as of 2021, solar panel arrays in the US are estimated to generate enough electricity to power more than 18 million homes. 

How Does It Work?

Solar panels work by capturing the sun’s rays on the panel surface and converting them into electricity using solar cells. These cells contain conductive materials that become excited by the sun’s energy, causing electrons to flow and produce an electrical current. Snow accumulation on the panels can block sunlight, reducing energy production. By removing snow from the panels, more solar energy can be produced. Solar systems are an effective way to generate electricity while reducing energy bills and promoting energy independence.

Maintenance & Cleaning

Cleaning and maintaining your solar panels is essential to keep them operating at peak efficiency. Snow and dust buildup can significantly reduce their energy production. In snowy climates, it’s important to regularly clean snow off your solar panels to ensure that they can produce enough electricity. You can remove snow using a roof rake or a soft brush, taking care not to scratch the panel surface. By keeping solar panels free of snow and dust, you can increase your energy output and keep your system running smoothly.

In addition to regular snow and dust removal, yearly check-ups of your solar panels and solar inverter are recommended to keep your solar system in good condition. A professional can inspect your system for any damage, check the wiring and connections, and ensure that the panels are working efficiently. Keeping solar panels clear and regularly maintaining your system can help you get the most out of your solar investment and reduce your energy bills.

Effects of Snow & Ice on Solar Panels

Solar panels are designed to withstand different weather conditions, including snow and ice, and are generally resilient enough to handle their weight. However, heavy snow and ice accumulation on solar panels can temporarily reduce or block energy production, affecting the efficiency of your solar system. 

While many solar panel owners may be tempted to remove the snow from their solar panels, it’s important to avoid damage to the panels or personal injury by not attempting to remove snow from solar panels. Instead, it’s recommended to let the snow and ice melt or slide off naturally, while keeping the area around the solar panels free of snow and dust.

How to Remove Snow & Ice from Solar Panels?

If your solar panels have accumulated snow and ice, it’s important to remove them as quickly as possible to ensure that the panels continue to produce electricity. However, it’s important to be cautious when clearing snow and ice from your panels, as freezing temperatures can create slippery conditions. One effective method for clearing snow is to use a soft-bristled broom to gently sweep the snow off the panels. 

Alternatively, you can use a snow rake or a long-handled brush to remove the snow from the ground. Whatever method you choose, be sure to avoid using any sharp tools or abrasive materials that could damage the surface of the panels. Here are some tools or methods that can help you with that: 

  • Roof rake, 
  • Soft-bristled outdoor broom, 
  • Leaf blower, 
  • Water hose, 
  • Soft ball, 
  • Trimming tree branches, 
  • Placing panels at an appropriate angle, 
  • Puller-operated tarp, 
  • Heating system, 
  • Installing all-weather panels, and 
  • Hiring a professional to clean your panels. 

Roof Rake

A roof rake is a tool designed to help you clear snow off your roof without having to climb up on it. Roof rakes typically have a long handle with a blade or rake at the end, and they allow you to clean snow off the roof from the ground. This can be especially helpful if you have a lot of snow cover or if you’re unable to climb up on the roof. However, it’s important to be cautious when using a roof rake, as heavy snowfall can create a lot of weight on the roof, which can be dangerous if the roof is not structurally sound. To use a roof rake, stand on the ground and extend the rake up to the roof, then gently pull the rake down the roof to clear snow.

Soft-Bristled Outdoor Broom

A soft-bristled outdoor broom is another tool you can use to clean snow off solar panels. These brooms are typically lightweight and have soft bristles that won’t damage the surface of the panels. They’re especially helpful for removing light snow cover or cleaning snow off the ground around the panels. To use a soft-bristled outdoor broom, gently sweep the snow off the panels, being careful not to scratch or damage the surface of the panels.

Leaf Blower

A leaf blower can also be an effective tool for clearing snow off solar panels, especially if the snow is light or if you have a large area to cover. A leaf blower can also be helpful for removing ice buildup from the panels, as it can create enough airflow to break up the ice. To use a leaf blower, start at the top of the panels and work your way down, blowing the snow off the panels. Be sure to keep the blower on a low setting to avoid risking damage to the panels.

Water Hose

A water hose (just a garden hose) can be used to clear snow off solar panels, but it should be used with caution. It’s important to use a gentle spray and avoid using hot water, as hot water can potentially damage the panels. A standard garden hose with a spray nozzle can be an effective tool for cleaning snow off solar panels, especially if the snow is light or if you have a lot of ground around the panels that need to be cleared.

Soft Ball

Believe it or not, a softball can be a helpful tool for removing light snow cover from solar panels. Simply throw the ball up at the panels and let it bounce off the snow, which can help loosen the snow and make it easier to clear. This method is especially helpful if you don’t have access to other tools or if the snow is light and easy to clear. However, it’s important to be careful not to throw the ball too hard or too high, as this could potentially damage the panels.

Trimming Tree Branches

To avoid shading and physical damage to solar panels, it’s crucial to trim tree branches. Not only can tree branches block sunlight, but falling branches can also damage solar panels. By keeping trees well-trimmed, you can reduce the risk of damage and ensure that your solar panels are receiving as much sunlight as possible, which helps to melt snow on the panels quickly.

Furthermore, trimming tree branches near your solar panels is an important maintenance task, especially in winter. When snow falls and melts, it can drip onto the panels from overhanging branches. Trimming the branches regularly with safe methods can prevent this and keep your solar panels free of debris. This can help the snow melt quickly and safely remove any moisture that could damage your solar system.

Ensure the Solar Panel Angle

To maximize the amount of sunlight your solar panels receive, it’s important to ensure that they are angled correctly. Solar panels work best when they’re angled to face the sun directly, which can help to produce more energy. Properly angled panels also ensure that snow and debris slide off quickly, so you won’t have to worry about removing it. By ensuring the correct angle of your solar panels, you can maximize their effectiveness and safely remove any snow that accumulates.

In addition to this, the angle of your solar panels is also crucial for winter maintenance. A properly tilted panel can help shed snow that would otherwise accumulate on the surface, allowing it to melt quickly and avoid scratching or other damage. To achieve the best solution, you can use adjustable mounts to angle your panels for optimal sun exposure and easy snow removal.

Pulley-Operated Tarp

A pulley-operated tarp can be a useful tool for keeping snow and debris off of your solar panels. By simply pulling the tarp over the panels during heavy snowfall, you can protect them from damage and keep them free of snow and debris. Additionally, the tarp can help to melt snow on the panels quickly and safely remove any snow cover that may accumulate. With a pulley-operated tarp, you can keep your solar panels clear and ensure that they’re working at peak efficiency.

List of Do’s and Don’ts for Snow Removal on Solar Panels:

  • Do check with your solar panel manufacturer before attempting to remove snow, 
  • Do use a roof rake or soft-bristled brush if you get the go-ahead from your manufacturer, 
  • Don’t use hot water or chemicals on your solar panels, 
  • Don’t use a metal rake or other sharp tools that could scratch the panel surface.

Heating System

One way to quickly remove snow from solar panels is by installing a heating system. These systems are designed to melt snow and ice that accumulate on the panel surface, allowing them to produce electricity without being covered by snow for long periods. Typically, these systems are installed beneath the solar panels and use a conductive material to transfer heat to the panel surface. However, it’s important to note that installing a heating system can be expensive and may not be a practical solution for every homeowner.

Use All-Weather Panels

Another way to keep snow from accumulating on solar panels is by using all-weather panels. These panels are designed to shed snow quickly and are typically installed at a steeper angle to help the snow slide off more easily. Additionally, all-weather panels are often made with anti-reflective coatings that help to melt snow on the panels more quickly, allowing them to continue producing power even when covered in fluffy snow. However, it’s important to note that these panels can be more expensive than standard panels.

Benefits of All-Weather Solar Panels:

  • Can withstand extreme temperatures and weather conditions, 
  • Produce more energy than traditional panels in low-light situations, 
  • May have longer lifespans due to their durability and resistance to wear and tear.

Hire a Professional

If you’re not comfortable removing snow from your solar panels yourself, or if you have a large solar array that’s difficult to access, hiring a professional can be a good solution. Professional snow removal companies or solar lease/solar PPA companies have the experience and equipment necessary to safely remove snow from solar panels without damaging them. Moreover, professionals can also check for any damage or issues that may arise from snow freezing on the panels for long periods, ensuring that your system continues to produce power even when covered in snow.

Tips for Maintaining Your Solar Panels Year-Round:

  • Schedule yearly check-ups with a professional to ensure your panels are functioning at optimal capacity, 
  • Keep your panels free of snow and dust to maximize solar power production, 
  • Trim any tree branches that could cause snow to fall on your panels, 
  • Ensure your panels are angled correctly to help shed snow during the winter.

FAQs

Will Snow Damage Solar Lights?

Thick snow or prolonged snow cover can potentially damage solar lights, especially if they are left buried under the snow for extended periods. However, if the lights are installed properly and maintained regularly, they should be able to withstand wintery conditions without sustaining damage. It’s important to keep snow cleared from around the solar lights to ensure they receive enough sunlight to charge.

What Can Ruin Solar Panels?

Solar panels are designed to withstand most weather conditions, but certain factors can potentially damage them. Exposure to extreme temperatures, prolonged exposure to moisture, and physical damage from falling debris or animals can all potentially damage solar panels. To keep your solar panels functioning at their best, it’s important to maintain them regularly and address any issues promptly.

What is the Best time to clean solar panels?

The best time to clean solar panels is on a cool day, preferably in the morning or late afternoon when the panels are not as hot. Cleaning the panels in the middle of the day during hot weather can cause the water to evaporate too quickly, leaving behind streaks or spots. It’s also a good idea to clean the panels after heavy rain or snowfall to remove any dirt or debris that may have accumulated.

How do Professionals Clean Solar Panels?

Professionals typically use soft-bristled brushes or squeegees to clean solar panels, along with a gentle, non-abrasive cleaning solution. They avoid using sharp tools or abrasive materials that could damage the surface of the panels, and they take precautions to avoid risking injury while working on the panels. They also ensure that the panels are dried properly to avoid streaking or spotting.

Conclusion

In conclusion, keeping snow and ice off solar panels during the winter is crucial to maintain peak energy production. While some snow buildup may not significantly affect the system’s output, heavy and prolonged accumulation can lead to reduced efficiency and even damage. It’s important to note that removing snow from solar panels should be done with caution and only under safe conditions, as there is a risk of injury or damage to the system. 

However, using safe methods such as the ones discussed in this article can help dislodge snow and prevent snow from freezing on the panel surface. It’s important to remember that extreme cases may require professional help, and in such cases, it’s best to consult with a reputable solar company.

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